Afghanistan: Bread price hike affects millions
KABUL, 21 February 2008 (IRIN) – A sharp rise in the price of bread over the past three months is affecting the lives of millions of impoverished Afghans.
Unleavened bread is a staple of the Afghan diet, with the average person consuming at least two oval-shaped flatbreads per day.
“The price is too high. There are nine people in my family,” Sardar Jan, a 40-year-old carpenter, told IRIN in Kabul.
“I need 15 loaves a day (for my family). How can we afford this?” asked Ghulum Dawood, 56, another Kabul resident.
And while business at one of the busier bakeries along Kabul’s Kolola Pushta Street remained brisk, selling about 2,500 loaves daily, even the proprietor had noticed a difference: “Business is good, but I know some people are having trouble,” Baryalai Ghafory said.
“I receive four `naans’ (flatbreads) free of charge from the baker a day,” 65-year-old Amina, one of 300,000 widows in Kabul said. “Thank God for their generosity.”
A large number of Kabul residents have resorted to buying flour and baking bread at home to cut down on costs.
Living on one dollar a day now more difficult
Since November 2007, the price of bread in Afghanistan has risen from 11 US cents to 21 US cents, an increase of over 90 percent. Though more or less in line with global wheat price increases in the same period, that is a significant jump for Afghanistan where over half the country’s 25 million inhabitants survive on less than $1 a day, according to Afghanistan’s National Human Development Report for 2007.
Such price hikes increase the risk of food insecurity, hunger and vulnerability to other shocks, according to a January 2008 appeal by the UN and the Afghan government.
At least 1.4 million people in rural areas and 1.14 million in urban areas have been pushed into high-risk food insecurity, the UN says.
A family of seven can earn around $1.14 a day in Kabul, if the head of the family is fortunate enough to have a job. It would need $0.63 to buy 21 loaves of bread. In many cases over 60 percent of a family’s income is now being spent on bread alone, the appeal said.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), from January 2007 to January 2008, the price of wheat nationwide increased by 67.3 percent.
In southern and central regions, wheat flour prices rose by 71.4 and 79.4 percent over the last year, while in the east, primarily due to the prices in Nooristan Province, that figure increased by over 143 percent, according to MAIL.
Pakistan, suffering from its own shortage of wheat flour, recently banned flour exports to Afghanistan, exacerbating the situation.
The Afghan government has limited capacity to import wheat or wheat flour and does not maintain grain reserves that might be used to help offset higher prices.
On 17 January, the UN World Food Programme launched an appeal for 89,000 metric tonnes of food (wheat, pulses, cooking oil and iodized salt) to assist over 2.5 million Afghans.